From the DP Times:
SHOPPING SMALLL: Dana Point Business Owners Discuss the Importance of Shopping Locally
By Kristina Pritchett
As the Thanksgiving leftovers are getting packed away and the gift lists are starting to get filled out, business owners in Dana Point are urging local residents to stay in the city to shop for the holidays this year.
In Dana Point, you can see small businesses everywhere you look, down Del Prado, in the Harbor, across town in Monarch Beach and on every street in between. As the holidays approach, those owners are looking for ways to drive in their customers.
Heather Johnston, executive director of the Dana Point Chamber, says there are more than 2,500 small businesses in the city, including home businesses.
“With Dana Point, and the exceptions of the hotels, the government agencies, the water district, pretty much everyone else employed in Dana Point are by small businesses,” Johnston said.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving is known as Small Business Saturday, a day that shoppers are encouraged to help their local stores. In cities like Dana Point, which brings in many tourists throughout the year, businesses hope the holidays can help boost sales.
Johnston said the state of the economy has a big impact on small business.
“The last couple of years have been really hard on everyone,” Johnston said. “The holidays will keep people open and be able to pay their bills until they can get back into the busy season.”
In Monarch Beach, Beth Oas, owner of Lingerie Paradis, says this will be her second holiday season being open and says it’s important to encourage locals to stay around to shop.
She added some businesses, like hers, are off in an area where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic. “It’s more local people we see that know we’re here. I get a lot of calls from the hotels, but I try to do marketing and social networking,” Oas said.
She added another difficulty she sees is the fact that many people shop online.
“With the internet, it’s very difficult to own a small business and to keep it going,” Oas said.
Marla Sherman, owner of Golden Galleon in the Harbor, agrees.
“We’ve all gotten caught up in shopping online; there are some things you can get online, but I don’t think we need to purchase everything from our desktop. We need to keep that in mind,” Sherman said.
Johnston said with Cyber Monday—where online retailers offer discounts on the Monday following Thanksgiving—and online shopping, it’s a devastation to the smaller businesses.
One thing all of the store owners said they focus on is the customer service they can provide by being a smaller business.
“I have to focus on the personal attention and getting to know my customers,” Oas said. “I want to make sure women get the right things. I know how I want to be treated [when being sold something], and I want someone to go home and feel really good about what they bought.”
Breck Girot, a store manager at Hogan’s Bait and Tackle, said when a customer walks in the door, they usually know what they’re looking for.
“We develop those relationships,” Girot said. “They can come in and say ‘I’m here to pick up something for Bob so-and-so,’ and we know Bob. We can direct them because we know exactly what he’s looking for.”
Stephanie Hogan, an owner at Hogan’s, agrees and added that this allows the business to grow with the community.
“These personal relationships and hands-on knowledge are things that online and big box stores can’t offer,” Hogan said.
Many people may say they can get the same items from a store at the mall, but the Dana Point business owners said when customers walk through their doors, they give extra customer service that may not be provided at a box store.
“I try to have things that are unique and you don’t see everywhere,” Sherman said.
Another part of that, Oas said, is knowing what your customers want to buy.
“I’ve had to evolve over time to what customers wanted,” Oas said. “We brought in swimwear for the summer, and it was great. We started getting active wear because a lot of people are into yoga, paddle boarding.”
Bridget Aguilar, owner of the Mailroom, says they’re busy during the holidays because of the services they provide.
“I think the holidays are when we get the most business,” Aguilar said. “We do a lot of gift wrapping, and we’re one of the few businesses to still do that. It gives a personal touch to the gifts.”
Johnston said when people shop locally, they’re not just helping the business but they’re also helping the community as a whole.
“The businesses employee people, those are your neighbors, they pay into local taxes,” Johnston said. “It’s an easy way to invest into your community. It doesn’t just stay in one shop.”
Johnston said the small businesses are the unsung heroes.
“People aren’t asking for you to do all your shopping there, they’re just asking you to spend a little of your holiday budget at a local shop,” Johnston said.